- Introduction: a red-letter day?
- A cherished dream of college life
- The first day: English class: first feeling of maturity: change of room – scuffle and race
- Civics class: common room: college canteen: college union: library
- Conclusion: liberty conditioned by responsibilities
As I look back today over the colourful passage of my college life, what flashes first in my mind is the first day at college. I can recollect every one of its varicd memories and experiences as vividlys as if they had happened only yesterday. It will, in fact, go down into my life as a rcd-letter day because on this day of all days I gained the first real taste of a frce and full life.
Unlike many others, I approached the day after a good deal of craving and preparation. Right from my school life, the thought of the college had been occupying my imagination”. I had been hearing of the wonderful life at college from neighbouring students, who extolled the numerous opportunities and prided over the liberty and dignity, they enjoyed. The very model of their life, whether at home or outside, seemed to have been radically changed by the magic of college life though they had left the school only the other day. This made a deep impression on my mind and it was since those days that I had been wistfully 16 looking forward to the time when I also would step into the Arcadius of liberty and Earning. And, at least, the cherished day was knocking at my doors when on passing the Matriculation Examination I got myself admitted into the college of which I am now a proud pupil. My classes were to begin a few days later and I kept longing impatiently for the approach of the day – the day on which I was to stand face to face with a new life, which, as I find now, is laden with thorns and flowers in an equal measure.
The fancied day at last came. It was a sunny Monday. I hurried through my lunch, put on a new suit of clothes and set out for the college with only one exercise book which I knew to be a custom of college students. But as soon as the stately college building came in sight, my courage began to fail. As I passed through the massive gate and was walking up the majestic flight of stairs leading to the first floor, I could clearly hear the beats of my fluttering heart. With trembling legs, I entered into the lecture hall, crowded all over with about one hundred and fifty students. I cast a glance around the hall and discovered a couple of known faces. One of them-an old classmate called me by my name. This dispelled my nervousness considerably. I replied to his greeting with a labored smile, went along and took my seat by him. For the first time he appeared so dear to me-the dearest on earth-though in the school we had never been very close.
Shortly afterward the commencing bell rang. It was a class in English. A middle-aged Professor, followed by a dozen of girls, came a few minutes after. He was wearing a somber face, which I never found him relax. We stood in his honor and he returned it with an indifferent nod. Then he walked to the platform with an air of self-confidence, stood behind the table, cast a wide look over and around the class, opened the register and called over the rolls with the names, cycling over every boy as he responded. This over, the Professor delivered an address in stiff English not on anything relating to the subject but on the relation between the teacher and the taught, on their mutual rights and obligations and, inter alia, sounded a note of warning against bazar notes. The whole class listened to him minutely. Despite his austere countenance, I liked the speaker because of his speech which he opened addressing us as gentlemen and repeated the same several times. It conveyed the first recognition that we were grown-up gentlemen, trusted to be capable of safeguarding our interests and no longer boys needed to be watched and overseen.
Our next class was to be held downstairs. As soon as the Professor of English left, almost all of us at once made for the doorway which was already crowded around by another group of students who were to come in. A push-and-elbow contest ensued we trying to get out and they wrestling to get in. It was an interesting sight and looked very much like a scuffle. My friend and I somehow managed to escape through the crowd. Equally interesting was to see all of us racing down the passage downstairs, laughing, talking, shouting and doing everything to show that we were fresh from the school-no doubt ardent contestants for maturity but yet remaining boyish at heart.
It was now a class on Civics. Soon the Professor appeared at the door, putting on a smile which broadened into a grin as we stood up in his honor. With an easy but impressive gait, he moved up to the dais, placed the register on the table and opened a chat in Bengali, asking this boy his name, that boy his address and enquiring about a lot of other things. The period thus rolled by and towards the close, he took the roll call. Just as he was preparing to leave, a student asked him if students should read notes. To my surprise he replied emphatically in the affirmative, adding, “I myself read notes and have them quite worthy”. But you have to make your selection”. Upon this he left the class, leaving us to wonder at two contradictory opinions on the subject by two members of the same faculty.
This class was followed by two off-periods and the general recess. My friend and I, therefore, went to the common room. It was packed to capacity. A few were reading papers and journals; some others were playing carom and table-tennis, and the rest, divided into several groups, were chatting and talking at random”. I met a few familiar faces and exchanged smiles with them. The common room was very noisy and there was no room for us to sit. So we moved out through the opposite door and found the college canteen to the left. We went in but found it no less crowded. Here also was the same noise and debate. A few were sipping tea standing and arguing? hotly on the foreign policy of Pakistan. My eyes fell on two cabins at the extreme end of the big hall. One was for the Professors and inside the other were sitting some girls. I was impressed and felt happy at this atmosphere of freedom outside the classroom. We took out tea standing and moved off for the library. On the way, my eves fell on a small sign-board with the inscriptions College Union. A notice board was hanging on the wall. I stopped and glanced over the board which contained several notices. One of them particularly caught my cycs. It was the notice of a meeting of the College Union in the Principal’s office. I read it again and again. It imparted me a feeling of importance. I saw in it a recognition of my capability to share the administration of my alma mater.
I went to the library and received there the greatest joy and amazement of the day. It consisted of two big rooms, packed up with rows of almirahs and shelves, containing an incalculable number of books on various subjects. I strolled along the rows feasting my eyes on the contents inside though I knew little and yet do not know much of what priceless treasure was stored up within. To me the library appeared to be an ocean of books, whose countless waves can only be wondered at and never fully admiral.
I had no mind nor any mood to attend any further class though two more were to be held in the last periods. Having, therefore, taken leave of my friend I started home back. On my way home, I fell into a reverie and began to recapitulate the lessons and experiences of the day. I found nothing to doubt that the college meant a definite change-over from a life of spoon-feeding to one of independence. But I found at the same time that the freedom was not absolute, that it was conditioned at every step by the shadow of responsibilities and that improper use of the freedom might well Icad to self-destruction In my boyish imagination. I fancied the college to be a domain of liberty and Learning. On the very first day, I found the college life burdened with responsibilities which is the price to be paid for its liberties. And throughout these years of study in it, I have found that the scale of responsibility is much heavier than that of freedom.
“Results are what you expect, and the consequences are what you get.”